Thursday, 25 October 2012

Note to Self

It's one of the most over-used pieces of advice for any aspiring or new writer: Carry a notebook!

As soon as I began to take my dreams seriously, I tucked a small notebook in my handbag, and a pen that worked (never mind that it frequently gets used by some mini-person who needs distracting). I kept one at home too, and regularly distilled the one into the other, although I think I have some remaining organisational issues.

So why, then, do I keep blinking and finding thoughts gone? Twice lately I've had ideas and failed to write them down, believing I would definitely remember this till I got home (to be fair to myself, once I was driving, and it is generally frowned upon to rummage for your notebook and take notes while hurtling along a dual carriageway). Do I need to even say that when I got home, my memory was bare? 

Then, I keep talking about my plan to write a short story each month in 2013 (all being well). I wrote the beginning of a story in the shower this morning. (The shower is a blissful little cubicle of peace in my house. The children follow me into the bathroom, but don't venture in the shower with me. They hop up and down outside the glass, begging me to wipe the steam, but it's surprising how that steamy glass can buffer you psychologically from the noise and demands of a three year old who wants to know if you're going to fetch him a banana soon; or the five year old who needs to complain with great indignation that his sister says she isn't afraid of money spiders, when for her whole life before this moment, right now, she has said she's scared of all spiders, so could you please come and tell her she's wrong about not minding little ones? I kid you not. If only all problems were so minor).

So I was enjoying my ten minutes of peace and almost-quiet, and the story was rolling along bee-yoo-tifully, the way stories in embryo form often do. Ideas sparked and fizzed, character motivations popped into my mind fully formed and perfectly fit. As soon as everyone was in bed, I sat down and started to scribble so fast that my fingers cramped. About three paragraphs in, I began to falter; I was losing that vision. The simple lines I'd come up with had somehow got knotted up, and I found myself lost.

How can I alter this? Is it simply that when a thing is nebulous as a thought, it appears (deceptively) to be wonderful? Or is it that the first idea gets a little choked by the new thoughts that occur at a later time? Would climbing out of the shower and committing it all to paper immediately have helped, or would that have caused the idea to abort in the first place?

Next time, I shall try writing it down sooner, and see what happens  - but if anyone wants to create a waterproof notebook so I can start to carry a notebook at ALL times, let me know...

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Keep on going

This week has been a week of tweaks and short bursts of writing. There were 2 days of writing, 2 days of a child with a vomiting bug, and 2 days of a paediatric first-aid course; not the most normal of weeks.

My triumphs, then, have been small-scale (but real all the same). I rewrote a rejected story and sent it back out. I continued work on a second story for next year's project (to write a story a month for competitions). And I added to my characterisations for my second novel.

 Two cheques also arrived for fillers, which give me encouragement, although it feels like cheating to count them as writing income.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Playing unsafe

I saw some of the Man Booker shortlisted authors talking about their work on TV this week. I haven't read any of them, and would like to. The extracts they read were all strikingly accomplished (which should be no surprise!) and my response was complicated.

There's that envy which is never far from the surface when I read something wonderful, and admiration too.  I had to examine my own ambition, too. Was this ever something I could do - write that well? Would I want to? One or two of the extracts, beautiful as they were, sounded dull.

There's always that struggle between literary and popular (and I'm judging without, as I said, having read any of the titles in question), and I considered that one or two of those books might stand the test of time, and be fodder for Eng Lit students for years to come, but not reach (or give as much pleasure) as many people as a Jodie Picoult or Katie Fforde.

I came to a comfortable sort of conclusion: I doubt I could ever be Man Booker material, and I don't mind. I want to write a different sort of book. But on my mission to do that, I don't want to close myself off, either, to improving my writing, and making it the best it can be. I needn't aspire to a prize; just to improve what I do, for myself. And that includes doing something I find tricky - scouring my imagination for original ideas; taking risks and making sure I'm not just sticking to a storyline because it feels 'safe'.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Write on...

Was a little despondent on Friday to have a story rejected which I had modest hopes for.  Thought again; is this the best way? To be dividing my attention between different genres? I've had an idea for a non-fiction article I could pitch to a magazine, if I had the literary balls, but then my meagre writing time is diverted into paths I'm less keen on.

If time were infinite, it wouldn't matter. But already I've jettisoned many things I quite enjoy. You have to accept at some point, you can really only pursue one or two interests in life, with any commitment. And writing books is the thing, for me, that I want to spend my stolen time on.

But perhaps other writing will help build a good foundation for that...I could go round in circular arguments with myself all day! Any advice would be appreciated!

On Saturday, I received a cheque from a magazine for a published letter - my second this month, and a total of £80 'earned' for them. (It somehow feels like cheating, to count a published letter as anything. But I was paid for my written words, so I shall count it....sort of).

And I'm thinking that this trickle of cheques ought to be put aside and spent on something a critique of my novel by a company such as Cornerstones. I wonder if Himself would notice if I diverted my little income..?